|Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will enter the 2014 season as a Heisman Trophy contender.|
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a junior this fall with two years of college eligibility remaining, but the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl will be open to the Heisman Trophy candidate if he chooses to enter the NFL draft early. Mariota has already picked up his undergraduate degree, which makes him eligible for the annual all-star game, as Senior Bowl assistant Patrick Woo pointed out in this Twitter photo of Mariota in graduation regalia:
Mariota made a difficult decision to stay in school after a spectacular season as a third-year sophomore last year. Considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the college game, the Ducks star could help his draft stock by participating in the Senior Bowl if he chooses to come out for the draft at season's end. Given Oregon's shotgun offensive attack, one of the scouting questions that is sure to surround Mariota will be his ability to adjust to playing from under center. The Senior Bowl would give Mariota a week to work from under center in front of dozens of onlooking NFL coaches and scouts.
Although the Senior Bowl hasn't always included graduated underclassmen, Mariota certainly wouldn't be the first. Former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker left UA after his junior season, and participated in the Senior Bowl before becoming a 2013 first-round pick. UA linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who went undrafted, is a 2014 example.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.